Today is the centenary of the battle of Beersheba, in which the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, serving under Britain’s General Edmund Allenby, took the city from Ottoman forces. Isi Leibler describes the battle, which he sees as the beginning of the consistently warm relations between Canberra and Jerusalem:
The battle of Beersheba . . . represented Australia’s first outstanding achievement as a fighting force, predating its [famed] Western-front victories of 1918. With the disaster at Gallipoli [two years earlier], where over 8,000 Australians needlessly lost their lives, many initially predicted that this attempt represented yet another example of military incompetence and cynical willingness to sacrifice soldiers. Beersheba was heavily fortified, and the battle was a last-ditch effort to defeat the Ottoman empire in the region.
Late on the afternoon of October 31, following an order by their commander, Sir Harry Chauvel, 800 Australian light horsemen galloped over two kilometers at top speed, directly into machine-gun fire, before dismounting and engaging in hand-to-hand combat. They overcame the Turkish defenders in less than an hour. Thirty Australian horsemen were killed and 36 wounded. Over 500 Turks were killed and 1,500 surrendered. It was a turning point in Allenby’s struggle to defeat the Ottomans in Palestine. . . .
Australia has constantly maintained a positive bipartisan relationship with Israel. . . . The Jewish community can claim much of the credit for this. Australian community leaders have not hesitated to confront their government on the rare occasions they considered it was applying double standards against Israel. The all-encompassing pro-Israel orientation of the Jewish community is undoubtedly a major factor contributing to the pro-Israel orientation of the mainstream political parties.
However, dark clouds are emanating from sectors of the Australian Labor party, whose former foreign minister Bob Carr has become a spokesman for extremist Arab causes. . . .